My first mission on this trip had nothing to do with the Lonely Planet job. I was assigned to do an article on Mactan Island by Interval World magazine (Interval is a timeshare association with something like 1 million members). They have a property in Mactan. Unfortunately, there isn’t much going on in Mactan besides diving and a few exclusive, all-inclusive resorts where people sequester themselves for a few days of pampering. Those were off limits, as they competed with Interval’s property on Mactan. The most eventful part of this research was taking a spin on the “Edge Coaster” in Cebu. In this ride you jump into a sideways-moving roller-coaster car and inch along the edge of the 40-storey Crown Regency Hotel’s roof. Sounds tame enough, except for that your car is tilted at a 45-degree angle so that you hang out over the roof – looking straight down. A few days after I did it I got an email from a friend with this subject line: “can I see a show of hands - who would trust such a thrill ride in the Philippines? let your kids go on it? anyone??” Been there done that, dawg. Actually I didn’t find it all that scary – I used to be somewhat scared of heights but suppose I am less so after living on the 42nd floor of One Rolex Triangle for 4 years. I even mustered the courage to pull the lever that tilts you to 55 degrees. I’ve posted a couple photos but there are better ones here: http://www.ourawesomeplanet.com/awesome/2009/03/edge-coaster.html
After getting comped (by Interval) my first night in Mactan, I moved to Kukuk’s Nest, which is by far the best budget hotel in Cebu City. More like a guesthouse, really, but with an active restobar, and paintings drawn by the artist-owner hanging everywhere. The “ordinary” rooms (one with shared bathroom and no air-con) were only 300 pesos ($6). Yeah they’re rote basic but so are virtually all “ordinary” rooms, which in Cebu tend to cost more and lack the funk factor of Kukkuk’s. Once I was in Kukkuk’s Nest, the LP part of the trip had officially begun, although I continued to research Cebu City for Interval, since Mactan Island certainly didn’t have enough sites to fit the top-10 format they were looking for (Cebu City itself barely has enough to round out the top 10, for that matter, although DOMs [dirty old men] sure find plenty of reason to like it).
For independent travelers, Cebu City is generally regarded as nothing more than a transit hub. But Cebu Island – the island on which Cebu City sits - has a few pearls. Malapascua, where I’d been before, is one of them. Bantayan, where I had never been, was supposedly another. I researched both before flying back to Boracay to meet Karin & Anna, who were coming in from Cambodia for our annual birthday bash on Boracay. The verdict on Bantayan? Ok. Not quite the paradise I was expecting, and just as boring as I expected (this is a place for hang-and-do-nothing types, which explains why I’ve never been there). And it has the most aggressive touts in the Philippines, a country that is not known for aggressive touts. Nice white beach, though. And there are a couple of chill resorts worth staying at.
The Boracay trip was for play, not work. The work part of the trip would resume in a week, when I’d go over land/sea from Manila to Dumaguete via Puerto Galera, Boracay (for a Frisbee tournament and for work this time), Iloilo, Bacolod and Sipalay.